The conventional wisdom is that the presidential race is deadlocked, too close to call, a dead heat. Some are even saying we might repeat the 2000 election result of a popular vote loser winning the electoral college.
The pundits want a close race. It keeps interest high. No one watches the second half of a blowout. People switch the channel to another game. So the media has a natural bias toward having us think the race is close.
I don’t think it will be so close. The release of the August job numbers insulate Bush from being credibly attacked on the economy for another 30 days. The fundamental message of the Democratic convention is that John Kerry will make an effective Commander-in-chief because he served in Vietnam. There was virtually no bounce. The Republicans just spent four days with a different unrelenting theme—the world is a dangerous place, too dangerous to leave to a flip-flopper who doesn’t believe in military spending. Forget whether this is fair or accurate. Which argument will be more effectively hammered home over the next 60 days?
What theme will Kerry sell over those 60 days? His main argument on Iraq is that he would have done almost everything differently. This is not a sellable position. You can’t hammer it home. Kerry may make a better President than Bush, but he is having trouble proving he’s a better politician.
If I’m right, Bush will get a real bounce in the polls. Five points or more. The Iowa markets alread have it here.
Can Kerry recover? After being relentlessly attacked in New York, watch for Kerry to ratchet up the rhetoric. That will help him. (And while the rhetoric gets nastier on both sides, it will be fun to hear both candidates complain about negative campaigning.) But Kerry’s critique of Iraq is neutered by his vote giving Bush authority to go to war. And the economy is performing well. Barring a Bush meltdown in the debates, it will not be close.